Saturday, March 14, 2015

979. A Tale Begun - Wislawa Szymborska

.
Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.

Our ships are not yet back from Vineland.
We still have to get over the S. Gothard pass.
We've got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw's center,
gain access to King Harald the Butterpat,
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouché.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.

We've run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven't got the trucks, we haven't got the Minghs' support.
The skinny horse won't be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars' captives.
We'll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.

We don't know whom to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the Prince-Cardinal will decree,
which names Beria has still got inside his files.
They say Karol the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation, let's appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge,
and say that we've got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.

Time to light the fires.
Let's send a cable to grandma in Zabierzów.
Let's untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.
May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.

But not so far
that it sees into the future.
Spare him 
that one gift,

O heavenly powers.

978. Most of the Warriors - James Kavanaugh

.
Most of the warriors I knew
Have settled down to gardening, and the morning Times,
Tired of stalking ghosts
and the melody of secret rhythms
above the sound of traffic
and other monotonous voices,
Finally content to stare and wonder.

Most of the warriors I knew
Have unsaddled stallions and built a fence in the backyard,
Weary of studying the clouds
And the shadows creeping across mountains
beyond the flash of neon
and other pretentious symbols,
Finally content to stare and wonder.

Most of the warriors I knew
Have died before their time and are forgotten
Save in the memory of their sons
And the dreams they seldom share
beyond the taint of time
and other unimportant measures

Finally content to stare and wonder.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

977. The Voice - Thomas Hardy

.
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who all all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
Traveling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessiness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

From Seamus Heaney
“I can’t honestly say that I break down when I read “The Voice,” but
when I get to the last four lines the dear ducts do congest a bit. The
poem is one of several Thomas Hardy wrote immediately after the
death of his first wife in late November 1912, hence his poignancy
of dating it “December 1912.” Hardy once described this group
of memorial poems as “an expiation,” acknowledging his grief and
remorse at the way he had neglected and hurt the one “who was all to
me…..at first, when our day was fair.” What renders the music of the
poem so moving is the drag in the voice, as if there were sinkers on
many of the lines. But in the final stanza, in that landscape of falling
leaves, wind and thorn, and the woman calling, there is a banshee note
that haunts “long after it is heard no more.”



Sunday, February 01, 2015

976. That Day - Denise Levertov

.
Across s lake in Switzerland, fifty years ago,
light was jousting with long lances, fencing with 
   broadswords
back and forth among cloudy peaks and foothills.
We watched from a small pavilion, my mother and I, 
enthralled.

And then, behold, a shaft, a column,
a defined body, not of light but of silver rain,
formed and set out from the distant shore, leaving behind
the silent feints and thrusts, and advanced
unswervingly, at a steady pace,
toward us.
I knew this! I’d seen it! Not the sensation
of déjà vu: it was Blakes’s inkwash vision,
“The Spirit of God Moving Upon the Face of the Waters’!
The column steadily came on
across the lake toward us; on each side of it,
there was no rain. We rose to our feet, breathless—
and then it reached us, took us
into its veil of silver, wrapped us
in finest weave of wet, 

and we laughed for joy, astonished.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

975. Presentiment - Rilke

Translated from the German by Edward Snow

I’m like a flag surrounded by distances.
I can sense the coming winds, and have to live them,
while things down below don’t stir yet:
the doors still close softly, and the chimneys hold silence;
the windows don’t tremble yet, the dust lies calm.

Then all at once the squalls arrive and I’m embroiled like the sea.
And I spread myself out and plunge deep inside myself
and cast myself off and am entirely alone

in the great storm.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

974. The Pope Recently - James Kavanaugh

.
The Pope recently
  Took the Bible a step further
And said that a man
  should not look with lust
    at his own wife.
Edna Mae O’Brien
  Who would give anything
    to be lusted after again
Wondered if the Pope
  Had discussed this matter
    with his father

Saturday, November 08, 2014

973. The Laboratory - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Walter Whipple

Did it all
happen in the laboratory?
Beneath one lamp by day
and billions by night?

Are we a trial generation?
Poured from one beaker to another,
shaken in retorts,
observed by something more than an eye,
each one individually
taken by forceps?

Or maybe otherwise:
no interventions.
The transformations occur on their own
in accordance with a plan.
The needle draws
the expected zigzags.

Maybe until now there was nothing interesting in us.
The control monitors are seldom switched on,
except when there's a war, and a rather big one at that,
several flights over the lump of clay called Earth,
or significant movements from point A to point B.

Or perhaps thus:
they only have a taste for episodes.
Look! a little girl on a big screen
is sewing a button to her sleeve.

The monitors begin to shriek,
personnel come running in.
Oh, what sort of tiny creature
with a little heart beating on the inside!
What graceful dignity
in the way she draws the thread!
Someone calls out in rapture:
Tell the Boss,
and let him come see for himself!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

972. Some Advice from a Mother to Her Married Son - Judith Viorst

.
The answer to do you love me isn't, I married you, didn't I?
Or, Can't we discuss this after the ballgame is through?
It isn't, Well that all depends on what you mean by 'love'.
Or even, Come to bed and I'll prove that I do.
The answer isn't, How can I talk about love when
the bacon is burned and the house is an absolute mess and
the children are screaming their heads off and
I'm going to miss my bus?
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.
The answer is yes.